(2 of 3 in a Series of Entrepreneurial Adventure) by Rebecca Mallory
It’s been two weeks since you started your own business, right? Or perhaps you’ve been waiting patiently for the “how to’s” in launching your teen into entrepreneurial success. You’re in luck, because today, we’re going to start that process. You may not even have teens yet. But you may have a house full of kids for the summer who have way too much down time. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” can translate into mom’s summer frustration. How do we keep the kids busy and away from TV and incessant video games? How can we channel that energy into something productive and useful?
No matter the ages of your kids, there is no time like the present to start teaching them life skills that will prove invaluable as they take on more responsibility in school, at a job, or launching their own business. Teaching your kids basic life skills could pay you great dividends. But just like painting a room, you have to do the prep work first. You can’t just slap the paint on first. Drat. I’ve learned that first hand many times. It’s so much prettier when you do the prep work up front. So here goes…
I love the internet! I remember the olden days of trudging uphill in the snow ten miles without shoes to the campus library in order to do any kind of research. (slightly embellished, but after a certain age, you’re given carte blanche in story enhancement). But now!! I can sit in my office aka jammies and bed…. And become wildly educated in endless volumes of stuff to my utter glee. Which is what I did in researching young entrepreneurs and teen success.
Recently, my husband, emailed me and said, “You’ve got to read this.” Having been a high school English teacher, he knew I would cringe. A college graduate from a well-known university was applying for a job with Dave’s company in Phoenix and had sent his resume with a cover letter. Honestly? I thought he was kidding. The grammar was atrocious and incoherent. He sounded like a seventh grader, certainly not a college grad. No need to even look at the resume. The kid had screamed his abilities in those two short paragraphs. He wasn’t even considered for the job. Too bad. May have been super qualified other than a lack of crucial communication skills.
1. Communication. In my ever humble opinion, reading and writing are probably the most crucial to anyone’s success. A math teacher may not agree, but you can get by in life with basic math skills (I am proof of that!) but you cannot get far without the ability to read, write, and communicate clearly. Unfortunately, technology has stifled our kids into their own world where they all sit quietly with their headphones in total isolation, ignoring the world around them. Even texting the person across the table! Many public schools have taken cursive and even writing out of the curriculum because our lives are so geared around keyboards. Hang on to those cherished hand-written letters and notes! “Spell check” and “auto fill” have dumbed us down into co-dependency.
Dave also had a situation where he was forced to hire the boss’s boss’s kid. You know where this is going…. The kid literally sat there with earphones listening to music all day during work. Dave was so shocked, he had never had to address this problem. Should there have to be office policy for that? Was there a “Common Sense” section of nitwit things NOT to do at work? Needless to say, that kid didn’t last either because daddy at least, had the sense not to step in and guarantee Junior’s inept future.
2. Economics 101 Another invaluable life lesson you can teach right now is basic economics. Repeat after me… Nobody owes me anything. I am not entitled to a darn thing except an equal opportunity. That opportunity does not guarantee results. Results depend on my patience, performance, and perseverance.
When our four girls were young, we had them in numerous lessons, sports, and activities. I think we wore that with a badge of honor. “Look how incredibly important and busy we are!” We had chores around the house for the girls but once they got into high school, we felt they were just too busy with sports and homework to do housework so I got a housekeeper. Mistake! Juggling school, sports, lessons, jobs, etc… That’s life. Figure it out.
Looking back I think we did somewhat of a disservice to our girls who are all now young mothers with kids of their own and who have had to learn many basic homemaking skills by on-the-job training. It does no service to youth to protect them from how life really is. It’s tough, you figure it out, you learn, you apply those skills to the next challenge you encounter, and become a better, more productive person because of it. Everyone is going to face it sooner or later. Why not prepare them in the comfort of their own home?
How do you work out an allowance system? Do you give them money for chores or do they simply get an allowance because they’re part of the family? I’ve seen families do it both ways. I just know this. That simply throwing money at a child does more harm than good. It doesn’t make them feel any more valuable or loved. It just gets them out of your face until they need more.
What DOES make them feel loved is having boundaries, saying “no”, being there to guide them and listen to them; even when you feel that their concerns are trivial. Compared to your concerns, they probably are! But they are their problems and very real to them. And how you react to their concerns will affect your relationship with them for a very long time.
3. Save 10%, Give 10%
And speaking of money…”Money is the root of all evil” seemed like a crazy statement to me because it sure helped in my life when I had it! And sure is a bummer when we desperately needed it. Money can be daunting and ominous. It can be wonderful if, when acquired, used wisely and prudently. But when it’s abused and squandered, it can cause untold heartache.
Teach your kids the value of money. Teach them to save 10% at least! and another 10% to give to charity. These are tried and true principles that have been proven throughout the ages. Just these two principles will teach your child to be Rich on Any Income (James P. Christensen) and to be compassionate to those less fortunate. It is magic, really. Do your own homework. Those who give selflessly have more and more abundance than those who are stingy and selfish.(Scrooge? Is that you?)
4. Get Junior a credit card
Next thing you need to do is get your kid a credit card. WHAT?? I could hear you shrieking. “That’s the last thing my son/daughter needs!” Now calm down and I’ll explain why. Not just kids, but many adults do not understand credit and how it works. Many just think you happen to have this magic little plastic card that has an unlimited stash attached to it. Maybe in the iCloud? Apparently, that’s not too far fetched. Just doing basic quick research on the web, it turns out that as a nation,
” More than 160 million Americans have credit cards. The average credit card holder has at least three cards. On average, each household with a credit card carries more than $15,000 in credit card debt. Total U.S. consumer debt is at $11.4 trillion.” ((Americans in Debt. debt.org)
Credit card debt is a travesty and plays on the ignorance of those who do not pay attention to how the economy works. How many easy credit card offers have you received in the mail in the past year? Your ten year old even? Why does this happen?
There’s a story about a woman whose cat, Simon, received a credit card offer. And another whose five year old actually received the shiny card in the mail. Mom even listed the kid’s birth date of 2009 and income “0” and he still got the $600 limit. Banks do this because they can. It’s a numbers game. They prey on stupid people to rack up debt and pay exorbitant fees which means big money for them. And unfortunately, sky high consumer debt is good for the economy because it pumps those huge fees into it. The only way it will stop is by wise consumer education. Don’t be naive enough to think that creditors have your best interest at heart. They have your best hard-earned money at heart, and will play you every time if you’re not careful.
But what’s the difference between a credit card and a debit card? Money from a debit card is “debited” or deducted right out of your checking account, so whatever your checking account balance is, generally, that’s what can be debited, or taken out. A credit card, on the other hand, is simply a loan. You’re buying money and will be charged interest to pay for it.
Let’s say you charge $1,000 on cat toys one month. Your interest charges start as that transaction is completed. Not on the first day of the next month. And let’s say your interest rate is 21%. If you pay just the $30 minimum monthly payment each month, it will take 51 months to pay off that debt and will ultimately cost you $1,513.96. I hope you’re gagging right now and not just that you did it with cat toys!! Robbery? Yup. But you’re doing it to yourself.
Banks will entice even further by offering “0% interest for three months!” What a deal huh? Then as you’re skipping merrily from store to store in worldly oblivion, you soon forget that your three months are up and you start to accumulate interest charges on the unpaid balance beyond your wildest dreams. Bank win, you lose. Cat happy.
So why would I suggest you plunge your kid into this abyss? Because he/she’s going to take the plunge someday anyway. Let’s let them learn it the right way…while your thumb is still squarely on them to teach them the “dos” and don’ts”. I would actually get them a debit card and a credit card. Let them learn the value and danger of both. Know exactly what’s in their checking account to know what will be debited, and how to protect themselves from identity fraud.
Use extreme caution in giving out social security numbers and other sensitive data. Teach them to pay off credit card balances each month and those pesky interest rates will never be an issue. They will build up great credit for when they really need it. And THEN watch the credit card apps pour in!! Banks will love him/her even more. But Junior will be wise enough to rip up all the paperwork and stick it right back in the pre-paid envelope and send it back. (This is a little trick we learned from Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes. Dave gets great pleasure from this.) Teaching your kids basic economics is one of the best gifts you can give him/her. Self-discipline and self-management are crucial to the well being of anyone.
5. Basic Life Skills:
Isn’t every parent’s goal to have their child graduate from high school with confidence and a good self-esteem? Friends play a crucial role during these years and the human brain is not fully developed until the early twenties (or fifties in many cases!) and that can be a deadly combination; your naive child with other brainless friends!!
–Choose friends wisely.
–Allow your child as many opportunities to grow and develop as possible. Sports can teach valuable lessons about teamwork, fairness, inequity, patience, perseverance, fitness, discipline, failure, success, etc.
–Have him/her clean his/her own room, and do other chores.
–Teach him to do basic cooking, how to shop for food and get good deals looking through and comparing ads and using coupons. Teach him marketing skills and how stores lure customers with gimmicks, sales, etc.
–Teach him to say “no” to himself. Remember that ancient term “delayed gratification”? That’s almost unheard of today. Still an invaluable lesson to instill.
Sorry, but it’s true. People’s first impression of you is crucial! Your kid may think dreds and torn jeans with huge ear gauges makes an “I’m cool” statement, but unless he’s applying at a very specific skate shop, that appearance generally screams, “Don’t trust me” or “I don’t take life seriously” or “You’ll never take me seriously!”
Is that an over-generalization and unfair assessment? Probably, but why chance it? On the other hand, not everyone in a suit that is clean-shaven and tatoo free is totally honest, hard-working and trustworthy, but let Junior do his own research on the importance that appearance plays in a job interview or contacting clients in his own business.
Wheww! We’ve covered a lot of prep work today in helping your teen start a business. Learning these skills will give him/her an enormous advantage in the business world. Next time I’ll give you more resources than you’ll ever need to help with Junior’s achievement and launching his/her business. Hey America… it’s still the land of opportunity in an unbelievably exceptional free country. Buckle up, and see you in two weeks!